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Tamil maRai

From: Parthasarati Dileepan (MFPD_at_UTCVM.UTC.EDU)
Date: Fri Sep 15 1995 - 14:27:43 PDT

I posted the following in SCT in a thread that
meandered into the question of, among others, whether
knowledge of vEdhaas was common and whether 4000
dhivya prabandham contains vEdhik truths.  I thought
it may be relevant here as well.

-- Dileepan

In article <> (C.R. Selvakumar) writes:

>In article <431v9j$>,
>Raghu Seshadri <> wrote:
>>Finally, there was a third source specially
>>for the Tamils. This was the Divya Prabhandam
>>of the Sri Vaishnavas. It is maintained
>>that the Prabhandam contains all the ideas
>>present in the Veda ( though personally
>>I think "all" maybe stretching it, but
>>certainly it does contain the Srivaishnava
>>interpretation of the Veda) ; indeed it
>>is given the title "tamil marai" or the
>>"Veda in Tamil". This , again, was widely
>     RS, I hope you would see the serious distortions that result
>     in saying that everything comes from Vedas or everything
>     that there is is a summary of Vedas.

In the following two issues are addressed, (1) vEdhik
status for thamizh prabandhams and (2) knowledge of
vEdhaas among the ancient thamizhs.  Obviously, these
two points are interrelated.

A word of caution,  I am not talking about
"everything"; all I am concerned with is
dhivya prabandham.

Sri vaishNavaas of south India have always accepted the
dhivyaprabandhams in general and the prabandhams of
nammaazhvaar in particular, as thamizh vEdhaas.
Sriman naadhamuni called nammaazhvaar's
thiruvaaymozhi "dhraavida vEdha saagaram."  Others
have said, "arumaRaigaL andhaathi," "satakOpan
senthamizh vEdham," "aanRa thamizh maRaigaL
aayiram," etc., etc.  The four prabandhams of
nammaazhvaar are mapped to the four vEdhaas as

thiruviruththam              :  rg
thiruvaasiriyam              :  yajur
thiruvaaymozhi               :  saama
periya thiru_vandhaathi      :  atharvaNa

I am not sure whether the ideas of the respective vEdhaas
are reflected in the corresponding nammaazhvaar
prabandhams.  But it is clear that the sri vasihNavaas
accorded vEdhik status to the prabandhams.  Some
would say that the prabandhams occupy a higher status
than vEdhaas.  During ceremonial processions of the
Lord, prabhandham chanters go in front, followed by the
Lord, and finally, in the back, the vEdha chanters.  This
practice is offered as evidence of higher status for
prabandhams relative to vEdhaas.

It is widely held among sri vaishNavaas that
the vEdhik principles are highlighted and made easy in
the prabandhams for those who lack Sanskrit knowledge.
It is believed that a study of prabandhams alone is
sufficient to understand the vEdhik truths.

Even though the later day sri vaishNavaas treat
prabhandams as thamizh vEdham there is no indication
that aazhvaars themselves made any such claim.  There
are two exceptions to this.  (1) Periyaazhvaar, in his
thirumozhi 2.8.10, asserts, "vEdhap payan koLLavalla
vittuchiththan than sonna maalai...," and (2) in 8th and
9th paasurams of kaNNinuN siRuththaambu
madhurakavi aazhvaar says of nammaazhvaar's
prabandhams, respectively, "aruLinaan avvaru maRaiyin
poruL," and "vEdhaththin utporuL, niRkkappaadi en
nenchuL niruththinaan."

Even though aazhvaars did not claim vEdhik
status for their verses they do repeatedly
invoke vEdhaas with phrases such as "vEdha
mudhalvan," "vEdhaththaan vEngadaththaan," "vEdhap
poruLE, en vEngadavaa," "vEdhaththaay, vEdhaththin
suvaip payanaay," "vEdha nalviLakku," "naal
vEdhaththuLLaan," "vEdha mudhaR poruL,"
"munnuruvil vEdha naan_gaay," etc. etc.  Therefore, it
seems to me that the aazhvaars gave enough reasons for
the later day sri vasihNavaas to revere the prabandhams
as thamizh vEdhaas.  Considering the reverential use of
the term "vEdha" by the aazhvaars, they could only feel
honored that their works are considered equal to
vEdhaas.  At the very least they would not take it
as a distortion.

The evidence of vEdhik knowledge among the authors
of paripaadal, dated prior to the early aazhvaars,
is even more remarkable.  Phrases such as "naaval
andhaNar arumaRaip poruLE," "pugazh iyaindha
isaimaRai uRukanal muRaimootti," and "vaaymozhi
yOdai malarndha ...," are found in them.  One of the
most fascinating passages of paripaadal occurs in the
third verse:

"theeyinuL theRaln^ee poovinuL naaRRan^ee
kallinunuL maNiyun^ee sollinuL vaaymain^ee
aRaththinuL anbu nee maRaththinuL maindhu nee
vEdhaththu maRain^ee boothaththu muthalun^ee
venchudar oLiyun^ee thingaLuL aLiyun^ee
anaiththun^ee anaiththinut poruLun^ee ..."

The similarity between the above and vEdhik ideas is

All of these do give us good reasons to speculate that
among the ancient thamizh learned, irrespective of caste,
vEdhik knowledge and reverence was not uncommon.
Lack of knowledge among the general public was
perhaps attributable to illiteracy or indifference rather
than taboo or religious sanction.

-- Dileepan